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Legion Invasion Wrapup

For me, anyway. This weekend I am with friends and sailing, and Monday / Tuesday at a course, so I finished up my Legion Invasion to-do list: which was getting one more character to cap and geared out. My Paladin.

Fully loaded and ready to open

I didn’t get quite as many chests because I was far more active in the invasions, meaning more XP and less chests. Still, I received a full suit and then some, with a few 710 and 720 ilvl pieces to boot. I was sure to use all three specs to get all three weapons (Tank, Heal, DPS). One huge miss I noticed for my Druid Restoration set that continued even more frustratingly so on the Paladin was the lack of offhands. Like many other players I fired up fast in levels, replacing every single piece of gear – except one ring, one trinket and my offhand. I have an ilvl close to 700 and a shield of 435.

Still, as they say, don’t look a gifthorse in the mouth. Beggars can’t be choosers. All of that stuff.  I still think it was a conscious decision though which makes me wonder why it was important to leave those holes.

With invasions done for me I went and did something I really enjoy – visiting old content. Karazahn is my favourite 10 man instance (of all time, I believe) so I went through it to see how challenging it was(n’t) for a freshly minted level 100 tank. It was a breeze, one shot bosses – but still a joy to visit. I ended up deleting a lot of my old raid gear before Transmog came in and Karazahn is keeper to my favourite set – the T2 Druid Malorne Set. I started gathering it so I can enjoy my nostalgia full blown not only in activity, but in looks too.

This is supposed to be showing you my new old Crown of Malorne. I must not have hit the right screenshot key, so enjoy Magtheridon instead.

One thing I have learned from the invasions and Legion that for a community that doesn’t talk much, it sure has a rhythm. It didn’t take long to have 50 complete strangers all working together and going in the same direction (which usually was the most efficient direction) to take down bosses and maximize XP gains. This is from years of training in WoW I believe. The flow is actually incredible and it doesn’t take long for new people to find the natural pace. The upside is efficiency – the downside is there isn’t any room (or success) for people to go off and do things on their own. I suspect Blizzard would consider that mission accomplished.

Opening Presents in WoW

Couchon, my “main”, finally made it to level 100 after prancing around in both participatory and non participatory ways of Legion invasions.

Couchon before boxes

At the end of it all, there were many gifts to open!During my time in invasions I had the following:

Large Legion Chests x 41

Small Legion Chests x 34

I have no clue why the difference. If I missed out on certain stages, miscounted, or whatnot – but when I added it up at the end those were the two tallies. Clicking on the links above gives the full loot tables, and you can get multiple pieces per open. How did my Druid do in terms of gear?

Item ilvl 700 ilvl 710 % slot
Head 6 1 8.64%
Gloves 6 7.41%
Pants 8 1 11.11%
Boots 13 1 17.28%
Belt 10 2 14.81%
Wrists 2 1 3.70%
Shoulder 8 2 12.35%
Vest 10 1 13.58%
Weapon 9 11.11%
Total 72 9 100.00%
% 88.89% 11.11%

Pretty spread out across the board. I also received 2 Upgrade Fel (it takes 6 to  upgrade your weapon from 700 to 725), a couple thousand in gold from selling the extras, and just under 1500 Nethershards (which you use to buy rings, trinkets, cloak, neck, etc.) I had enough to buy all of them plus the additional upgrade Fel to get both my Tanking and Healing weapons maxed out. Don’t forget to swap your specs to make sure that you can get the other, appropriate weapon. Which, I am guessing, doesn’t really matter with artifact weapons on the way. There is a bug with the Leather chest for Druids that doesn’t show the AGI / INT swap during specs, so I kept changing to see if one would drop. Turns out Google reigns supreme once more with the easy answer with little effort.

Couchon with full gear (and boxes left to open)

The event was/is fun, and undoubtedly the fastest way to level with the bonus of the mini-game of opening chests for loots afterwards. I am trying to decide how much effort I am going to put into this event for my alts – I still need to save the Draenor leveling experience for one, and I will get a free level 100 when/if I buy Legion. Much to do, all the same.

How was your luck with the chests from the events?

Working On/During Invasions

I’m glad I have a flexible IT department. Or lack of internet traffic monitoring. Either / or, I can finally level while doing spreadsheets, with two to five minutes of effort every 30 minutes. Participatory XP is incredible right now during WoW invasion events – you get awesome XP. Thing is, you have to pay attention and put in effort. Work Invasions, as I now fondly call it, I can do my work and check on myself every 10 minutes or so with an ALT-TAB and still get levels – just by being present. This isn’t really a problem in my eyes because I am taking nothing away from other participants – I am doing as much as I would be if I wasn’t there at all, so I am not detracting from their experience. Still, I bet there is a crowd out there mad at my welfare XP. If you can’t tell I am completely fine with it. I paid my taxes (tanked through half a dozen yesterday) so now time to collect my freebies. I just wish they had a better, offline version of it – maybe optimized from my android device – so I don’t have to bother the alt-tab. EVE levels similarly to that, right?

My new leveling experience

Just yesterday I commented that I wanted to see the story of Warlords of Draenor – and I do! Problem is I started at level 94 which meant I kept missing quests (too low level, had to search them out) and that as well as the ridiculously easy challenges meant marginal XP from the quests. I do love a good story but I love me some XP along with that. I have plenty of characters in the 85-90 range so in the short term I am going to use the invasion XP as I can, and save the WoD experience for a better level appropriate character. Best done when the opportunity of free, easy XP is long gone. Right now I am getting close to 1/6 of my required experience to level per Work Invasion (at level 96) AND I am being highly productive at work too. That is a win/win. Tonight I’ll get back on and participate and be a good WoW-citizen. Until then, thank you Blizzard, for streamlining the leveling experience even further.

Back In WoW

I’m back in.

I have often lamented that I will never truly be done with WoW until my main character Couchon (where some of my best gaming experiences have happened) had a proper end to his story. As a druid, fittingly, that would be in the emerald dream. The armchair developers keep sharing rumors and ideations of that eventual expansion. With limited playtime I decided to focus on Couch (nickname – not a typo) as my starting point. If he sticks, that would be great, because I would have both heals and tanking covered and be ready for fast queues in the five mans. Back to Azeroth I go.

As a druid at 87 I don’t have Bhagpuss’ continental travel issues for invasion hopping. Baseline spell: Teleport Moonglade for the class and my hearthstone in Stormwind gets me back and forth. My flight form is more direct and faster than the griffons. My level 90 characters have it even easier if they made it to the Shrine in Pandaria (not all of them did) where you can hearth to an inn near capital city portals. Still, I am focusing on Couchon. Focus. (I have a hard time with avoiding alts….)

A big complaint of mine with WoW has always been that once you start using mods (especially if you are a raider, there are a dozen mandatory ones) you can’t stop. There are a handful that should be default UI by now. Maybe more. I have been afk’ing invasions as I sort out my mods. Sure, its not the most efficient XP but it’s free and better than the non-xp alternative. I received two levels while setting up Weakauras alone. Grid and Status and Indicators will be another level or two. I needed another 3 or 4 hours before I felt even comfortable playing my character.  This was all with one spec (tanking) which isn’t that optimized for the leveling experience, or the non-grouped invasions. I still have to mod out and practice healing. The invasions were good for practicing rotations and mod settings and I still have a few to setup including Tidyplates. All of my favorite mods are still there but I do not know if they are the “right” ones anymore.

Once I became active in invasions they were an incredible source of participatory XP but became really repetitive, and dull. After stashing 50 or 60 loot boxes I decided that with a new expansion coming I should go quest through Warlords to see what I missed. Single player story lines are the new MMO anyway. I already out-level the content but the hard stop is 100 and full of free loot, I might as well enjoy the journey.

Like a comfortable pair of socks the flow and comfort of WoW is undeniable. I have a Garrison that will soon be gone, but I’m curious to see what that experience would have been like if I played when it was new. So I am loaded up with goodies and ready to go. My goal, if possible, is to pay for my sub through the token system but that means putting in time and effort on the Auction House. I should go set up that mod next. Have I mentioned yet I haven’t purchased Legion? This little trip back to Azeroth will guide that decision.

Real Hot Mess

I’m struggling finding fun in gaming right now.

It is definitely not for a lack of trying, I have been buying games like crazy and giving them a good chance to hook me. I even made blog posts about it, to try and drum up some momentum to get into a game or two and strengthen that tie and enjoyment with some good old fashioned blog posts. It’s just not happening. I have been abandoning games at an alarming rate this year and am just not finding that groove. I am completely jealous and envious with Bhagpuss who continues to find enjoyment in the same spaces and am struggling with a hobby I am not getting enjoyment from and missing terribly at the same time. As you can probably tell, the quality and frequency of my blog posts has also deteriorated. The struggle is real.

Looking back at my 2016 to date and my positive gaming time:

  • Destiny (Heavy time): I was on a nice schedule of an hour a day. I have all 3 classes at top level (not top gear, since I do not raid) and since the content has dried up I stopped playing. There are expansions on the  horizon (and sequels!) and that is something to look forward to.
  • EQ Progression Servers(Heavy Time): I shot myself in the foot here as I did three characters to level 30 (and had so much fun doing it) but took a step back when I heard they were launching a no-box server. When that server finally launched, I had a hard time chewing through the first 10 levels for a fourth time. Daybreak also nerfed quest XP and XP gains in general, so it was extra painful (even with XP bought potions.) I couldn’t get a good start again and the servers I had abandoned were leveling ghost towns (all end game).
  • Pillars of Eternity (Completed): A good RPG but I admit that near the end I was rushing to finish, not explore.
  • X-COM 2 (Completed): Fun game, but hard to pick up DLC when you already saved the planet!
  • March of the Living Dead (completed with one character): Really enjoyed this title but like many indie experiences, there wasn’t much reason to replay through as the encounters became familiar and repeated.
  • Portal Knights (ongoing, its gaming time with my 11  year old. Infrequent but checks a lot of good boxes)
  • ….is that it? Really?

That is a lot of single player experiences outside of EQ. Sure, Destiny is online but not a chat/social platform at this stage (unless you include pointing and dancing.) Looking back at 2016 to date with my stops / starts:

  • The Division (40% done): I grabbed this for the PS4 (and also received a free copy with my new laptop) and finished half of the main storyline (which was intriguing enough
  • Fallout 4 (60% done): I’m not sure when or why I stopped playing F4. I remember actively enjoying it and then… done. Not sure when or why that changed.
  • Landmark (toe dip)
  • Rimworld (three solid days, and lost interest)

I have even started reloading MMOs on my gaming drive “just in case”. Last time I checked I had EQ2 (highest level 18) ready to go, EQ (highest level 55), TSW, (in Egypt), SWTOR (level 22) And just this weekend, WildStar.

WildStar is my new “give it a go”. I did something in WildStar I never do (play the “bad” side) and this weekend was a blast as I worked on weakening a local tribe that was capable of building very powerful weapons, which made the Dominion nervous. They do not want any new, strong enemies. The action combat does wear on me (I read an article where it was changed from tab targeting half way through development – bad move!) but the stories are fun. I do want to get a max level for the story aspect – both sides. This is another MMO that for me would be better as a single player game – although, I do like some of the early dungeons when the queues used to pop. I just wish WildStar took itself a bit more seriously, there would be a great story there if there was less joking around and less 4th wall breaking. I think it could prove a worthy distraction. With quarterly revenues up, but low (2M USD equivalent) I’m afraid the game may go away before I get a chance to learn more about the planet.

I am struggling with WoW as a tempting revisit. I didn’t play a single level in Warlords (I did buy it at 75% off) but my pocket cleric from EQ Testserver (Candarie) messaged me – “Come tank for me B (Braack). Just like old times.” Candarie is still a full time gamer and I am now on the other end of the spectrum. A few hours a week is lucky for me, which makes commitment to anything in gaming worlds hard to do. For the first time in my life I feel like a big hot mess in gaming. I miss it, I wish I could make more time for it in my life, but something else would have to give. I am not quite ready to sacrifice my wife, family, work, or health.


Telling Stories – Rimworld

I have always wanted to play Dwarf Fortress. I have downloaded it several times. It’s hard, and I haven’t found the patience to truly learn it or get into it. Dwarf Fortress is very much a game like EVE to me – great to read about, not fun to play.  While it is a similar result to each other, they are two titles that couldn’t be further from each other in style or substance. Enter Rimworld, and early access title on Steam that has spiritual similarities to Dwarf Fortress but a “Friendlier” interface and graphics package. I started reading some of the stories that were generated through play throughs of the title, and decided to plunk down the $30 to give it a try on my own. I instantly had buyers remorse. After a few slow starts and some confusion I realized that this title is going to take patience and perhaps reading about the stories would have been a more fun use of my time instead of slogging through the game itself. Still, that was such a quick and unfair assumption and the title deserved a bit more of my attention. So I tried again. And again. And finally, I had a breakthrough and started sorting things out, and it starting being fun. This is the starting story of my Rimworld adventure.

There are currently three build in scenarios, and I chose the one that was most like me. Ok, that isn’t true, but chose the one that felt like the easiest start. With only one person to manage, that should be much easier! Also, having gun turret research in hand sounds like something handy to have on an alien planet. Just saying.

The AI Storyteller manages story events and encounters. I took the Classic approach, did a mid range “difficulty”, and also agreed to permadeath mode. I mean, YOLO and all of that. Upon further reading, Random Randy seems to be the preferred storyteller (keeps it more interesting – Cassandra has a series of well paced, escalating encounters, from my understanding). I probably won’t make it through a year so Randy will get the nod next time.

I hit randomize around 30 times to find a young, male player. There were options for 70 year old people, but I figured I need to be prepared to live basically forever on my first play-through so I really should find someone young. Besides, who doesn’t want “Starship Janitor” as their Adulthood backstory?

The map options are absolutely gigantic. You literally pick a pixel of that play area as your home base. You do NOT get the option of moving around outside of that though, which I feel like is very limiting to the game. Still, I wanted to choose an island, among the mass, so I did.

You can see by my little pixel and all the things about it – Avg temps (and by season), types of stones, growing seasons, and then some. I should have did “random” to be in better spirit of the game.

Again, just like real life. This feels more like telling the future, than a game.

I decide to build into an existing sandstone structure instead of building a base outside. It just feels safer.  One way in, one way out! This always worked for dwarves (historically, right?) so why not rich space travellers? I have a healthy starting inventory so I ignore things such as finding food sources and building defences while labouring away inside my soon to be mountain home. Then, tragedy strikes, an encounter! Which I didn’t even realize was happening because I wasn’t paying full attention.

It’s hard to see, and I forgot to take a screenshot in my frantic defense from a MAN HUNTING TURTLE (yes, you read that correctly.) I was attacked by a man hunting turtle. The man-hunting adjective in the tutorial explains that if you go hide, the beast will wait around and search for you. I have never heard of a turtle being vicious, let alone man-hunting. Seem to be this turtle was kick-ass – it cracked my jaw, bit my torso AND bit my left leg causing trivial blood loss.

And with that, I end my introduction of my adventure and Rimworld. Stopping after successfully defending an attack from a Man Hunting turtle is about the most excitement that has happened thus far and seems like a high point to end this post and start this series.

Portal Knights Inspiration

I know, I should stop. Landmark is what Landmark is, and no amount of wishing for private servers with complete autonomy (paid for, of course) and entire worlds that can be changed, explored, and molded will change that. Oh the adventures to be had. The game is what the game is and I should just accept that.

Except I can’t, because I think it would be perfect in a private server model. And I am going to keep dreaming (and writing) about it. The latest inspiration is from Portal Knights, a game my son and I are playing together. It is in early access, and on steam, and checks off every box that I want Landmark to be (except one).

  • Persistent, private world? Check!
  • Sandbox-y, build, conquer, create? Check!
  • Explore, discover, surprise? Check!
  • Character Development? Check!
  • Modern, believable graphics? NO. *sadface*

Portal Knights has three character classes (Ranger, Warrior, Mage) that all play just a bit differently. In the simplest of terms you could say it is a more focused Minecraft. It has all of the building elements of Minecraft but more RPG built in. You start on your own private, floating island and through discovery find and unlock a portal. This leads to a separate floating island with different resources (mobs, plants, trees, ore, etc.) which also has portals. Some islands have dungeons, boss mobs, and the like. Each world, currently, has 49 different floating islands. I can setup homes and crafting stations in each (which is overkill) but there is that option to personalize each of the islands. The time swaps between fighting and resource collecting (and a day/night cycle) keeps the game play fresh.

I have my private world and can do what I will with it. I can also invite up to 3 friends to explore my world with me, through Steam friends, and/or LAN. It’s a great setup. We have been having more fun with PK than Minecraft and my son is level 15 while I am level 13. One of the better parts is that we can have our own, private worlds plus a shared one for when we can play together. You can advance in, around, and outside of each. Whatever you have on you when you visit a world you have. It’s that great mix that a world moves on without you, but yours can’t. You can have your cake and eat it to.

It’s fun, addicting, and the first boss battle I did was simple enough – but it is always exciting to drop a boss in any game. I look forward to continuing to explore the worlds and enjoy the game for what it is – did I mention it was in early access?

While enjoying it for what it is, I can’t help but think Landmark could have a similar setup, where you could explore other people’s worlds when invited and they even have a better setup to personalize your world with dungeons and mob placement. That is the version of the game I really want to play.  I am also being consistent here, as I have argued for World of Warcraft to have private, paid for servers as long ago as 2008. I think that is the kind of model that is going to have a future. Portal Knights is where we spend our gaming time now and it has been a polite, engaging distraction. Hopefully other worlds follow.

The Sounds of Silence

With Pokemon GO! ruling the airwaves, I haven’t seen much commentating on the news that Blizzard will be putting in a silence penalty to improve the community. Straight from

The first time a player is silenced, their chat will be restricted for 24 hours. This duration will double for each silence penalty received after the first, and there is no maximum. This means that players who receive multiple silence penalties may find themselves unable to chat for a very, very long time.

This leads to some questions:

  1. Does anyone really need to talk in WoW today anymore, anyway?
  2. How long until someone shows a screenshot that they were banned forever (10 bans would equal 2.8 years of cumulative ban time)
  3. Will this have a measurable impact on the tone and style of WoW?
  4. Can we apply this to the Internets as a whole?

Snide comment #1 and joking comment #4 aside, my initial thought is that this is a step in the right direction. There is little incentive for people to be nice in chat since random group queues means you never play with the same person twice. The guy that freaks out on their team and/or is inappropriate is suddenly at a disadvantage. I don’t think you can teach manners with rules, and a better solution would be to not only not let them talk, but also not let them play. Right now you can still be a complete ass to randoms and chat all chummy with your pre-set raid team. I’d like to see it go further. I bet that would really shake things up. Still, it will be a fascinating experiment to behold and hopefully they stick with it through live or add an even tougher version.

My other thought to this is if it really even matters. I think WoW players have grown thick skin and I believe it’s unlikely that this will bring players back. “Oh, people will be nice to me now? Subscribe!”. I am genuinely curious if this feedback came from players who quit – and where this idea was generated from to begin with. It’s a community building tool by subtraction.

Regardless, effort is effort. I give them credit for the attempt and curious for the results.

Missing the (Land) Mark

Like my dear Landmarkian friend ( Landmarker? Other guy who plays?) Bhagpuss, I went back to Landmark now that it is a “real” game, completed and everything.  For a quick recap on how I felt about Landmark: it was an awesome time killer. I was an early tester of Minecraft and Landmark could be the next big thing! Although I hate action combat, there was enough in Landmark to get me excited about Everquest Next. It was a fun tool slash simulator to run around and play in. I even built an awesome serviceable home. (That link is important later).

Sure, there was no game there, so to speak, but there was a grind and building and exploration and a grind. It was a visual update to Minecraft without being able to change much of the world permanently – just your own little plot. Beautiful graphics, great movement animations, great scenery. The future was bright.

I stopped playing. Really, I got back involved in EQ (Progression servers) and my serial game play nature doesn’t let me delve into more than one title effectively. Besides, there was a lot of work to be done from it’s Alpha state and since I was a founding member, I could come back anytime and check out the changes. I just didn’t bother. Part of that was the fear of the time I would lose “playing” a “game” that had a long way to go before being done and the other was that I was engrossed in other games. It remained there as something I couldn’t wait to see shape and grow and then get back into when the time was right.

The time never was right. EQ:N was cancelled and there was even more doubt about what Landmark would be. I kept playing other games. Bhagpuss started posting about it again and I became interested and updated the game, and loaded it back up for fun.  I made it to the selection screen, made a character, and had to log off for some reason or another. It sat another week. I forgot about it. I found it again. Loaded it up, to find I made a character in a space suit, whose first tutorial job was to build a castle. Good, fitting, scenario.

While it should have been a futuristic colony I did appreciate how easy it was to click “castle parts” and build a castle. No more messing around with various shaping tools. I also got a dream plot of land – waterfront! Without any effort. No clue how it got there and what went into that random choice.

The server population was low, and a quick glance around was a sea of other barely started tutorial land plots. Not what you would call a vibrant, inviting neighborhood.

The landscape was dotted with half built castles as far as the eye could see. What WAS interesting, mind you, was the first row of the building tool in the screenshots – the game had saved my Claims from alpha, including my home sweet home ‘Isey’s Mountain top retreat’ (which I don’t recall naming as such, but was accurate as I remember it.). Sadly, I couldn’t build that due to a lack of resources and props. I suppose there will be some work to do in Landmark after all. What I could build though was my dragon mouth (the link far above, that I said was important, is for this reason). I did have the resources for that so stuck it on the side of my vanilla pre-fab castle just to see if it would work.

Fully satisfied in my initial building experience I continued down the road of the tutorial, stopping right after I bought the Dungeon pack where it seems I can build my own mini dungeon with NPCs and the toolset. While I didn’t get far two things became crystal clear to me. The first being that I couldn’t set up shop there. Too empty, too many people started there an didn’t finish, there was literally not a single building completed as far as I could see. Just a couple tutorial pieces. I am tempted to keep the waterfront but more curious to go explore and see where (if) the community is.

The second moment of clarity was that if I didn’t log off immediately I would be sucked in and lose a few hours of my afternoon, which I could ill afford to sacrifice today.


It’s a dangerous title and one I am not sure what I will do with. What i am certain of is that if it was indeed the next minecraft, I would pay a lot of money. If I could host my own server where my guests could shape and build the world, and not just a small plot of land, that would be worth a lot of my investment. As the way it stands now, not so much. I will play it for sure at some point. I often struggle when I want to give money to a company if they would only do one thing I want that they don’t do. It feels selfish of me. Still, I will hold out hope that they sort out a hosting business model so they get their money, and I get my updated Minecraft-esque world to build, shape, and populate with imagination.

New Rig

Pulled off an amazing “need case” at work for this sweet, sweet mobile gaming (and computing) powerhouse:

Delicious and Nutritious?

So far it has been wonderful, except for the fact that  the case is warped. In certain situations it moves corner to corner when typing and that is incredibly annoying. Gaming wise it has performed as expected, but those dual fans really kick up a lot of noise to keep it cool while under load.

I also dislike the keyboard lighting. For me so far it seems to make the keys look “fuzzy”, if that makes sense as a descriptor. I am curious if when they send the replacement (which they are) if the warped casing has anything to do with that, and also distracting when not a single, pale colour. Maybe my eyes are going in my old age. Who wants rainbow lighting moving around your keyboard anyway? And why won’t those kids get off my lawn *shakes fist*.

It seems to run EQ just fine, at least. (yes: obvious sarcasm)

Sure, I understand you can get 2x the desktop rig for the same price but I don’t need to be on the bleeding edge and I like being able to game in different parts of my house, and also on the road (which I travel for work). So it is a win win. Plus, the IT department knows I put a lot of visual and computation strain on my computers with the various data-sets I run and this will mean less time alt tabbing and waiting for a result and more time sending results. So far so good. I can think of a couple other excuses – subtle ‘nods’ from gamers when they see the snake logo light up in a business meeting and all the nerd-cred that goes along with that, things of that nature. I think I might be cool again. Is the word ‘cool’ making a comeback?

I used to lug around old Asus laptop gaming machines with 17 inch monitors and 8-10 lbs of glory so this has been a really nice, thin change.

Privileged White Men

Click bait worked?

I was reading Izlain over at his blog about Gender Swapping Heroes and started writing a long comment. It got to the point where I figured I should make a post instead.  When I cross the 200 word threshold in a comment I tend to do that. The basis of his discussion there was whether or not people should care if Link, from the Legend of Zelda can and should be a woman instead of a (presumed) male figure. While I don’t care what sex Link is in the game it did make me think about the space gaming fills in the world and the different ways I have been looking at that.

My struggle with this is around what kind of medium games are. If they are “art”, then it should be anything the “artists” want. Remember, people have made art out of feces (go ahead and click it, you know you want to. No one here is judging!) and put it on display. They can be far out, wacked out, main stream, boring.. all the things games are today.

If games are a business, then it should be anything the business wants. They will realize that different choices will affect the bottom line and program their business accordingly for maximum return. They can have male only protagonists, female only protagonists, alien only protagonists, whatever they want. Whatever they feel is the right business decision.

Sometimes – rightly or wrongly –  it feels like games are being asked to be community services. There is an expectation that they must be inclusive of everything so participants can participate unharmed in safe, inclusive spaces. At the end of the day, most of these games are about killing stuff. Inclusivity for murderous purposes is important, I agree! *smileyface emoticon*

Much like the Bartle taxonomy of gamer types gaming to different people (and different companies) are a mixture of different things. Many would probably assume in the Art Business Community (ABC) scale, Blizzard would be heavy on Business, extremely light on Art, and moderate on Community (Overwatch Assgate as an example). Indies might be heavier on Art and Community over Business. You get the idea. Just another worthless need to quantify things. You would hope that being creative and community minded would lead to good business (which may be true sometimes) but in general, non quantifiable mind you – the highest grossing games are rarely the most artistic or focused on improving historically marginalized communities.

Example – The Division. I rescued the Doctor (not THE doctor, but a doctor who can save New York) who is a largely forgettable main character. I don’t even know her name. This has nothing to do with her being a woman, or a doctor, but just a non-interesting NPC who you interact with on big missions that result in Medical Wing points to upgrade facilities. While largely uninteresting, at one cut scene she mentioned she lost her now deceased wife with the pandemic. Her being a lesbian did nothing for the story, and didn’t really make her much more interesting (although I do remember that she is a lesbian and not her name…) and while it may have been an attempt to tear jerk a bit (loss of a loved one) it wasn’t effective because I wasn’t that invested in her as a person. Now, to be fair, if she had lost her husband to the pandemic it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of how I felt at all either. When that happened it was chalk one up for the lesbians who have representation in a major side NPC in a blockbuster game. Did someone at Ubisoft check a box off to ensure they were inclusive in the title? Is this a mandated aspect to token-ize inclusivness or it was it a genuine effort by the company or a writer to make a LGBT person say “I can identify with her”?

I ask that in earnest, because I am a privileged white male, of course. An open minded and curious one at that.

I believe that games should be run as businesses, and the smart developers will be inclusive in order to make customers happy and get more customers. To add narrative elements to enhance the story or improve the experience – not as a public service of some sort. I think that is the method that feels the most empowering.  I am certainly more interested to learn the perspective of those hoping for more inclusiveness on what they think is most effective. What is the best way? Without the outcry or the threats of loss of dollars, would we really just continue to get all white, male games?  Do those games actually make more money, and do gamers actually NOT buy games because of lack of inclusiveness?

At the end of the day, none of those things impact my game play. I can be the lone white male in a sea of LGBT ethnic minorities and it won’t impact my enjoyment of any game. I would  play the Black LGBT only protagonist in a WW3 FPS  in story mode, as long as the game play and story is good. Sadly, I may be in the minority with that.

Things I Don’t Like About the Division

Should I tell you how I really feel?

Even though that is a far less eloquent title than normal there is a lot I think I should like about The Division –  but a few key items are holding back that full endorsement. I do find it odd that people compare it to Destiny as it is a very different style and format, although I do agree that they compete for the same “time slot”. It’s like having The Simpsons and Family Guy on at the same time. Right now, for me, even with lack of content and progression, Destiny is the Simpsons. It boils down to three simple things, and I will use Destiny as a comparative in them as well.

  1. Snow: It is the only environment I have seen. I get the feeling that that’s all there is, because of the beautiful way the background has been rendered. In Destiny every planet you went to had a theme so you were able to get a lot of different looks and feels. Right now you have snowy streets, foggy, snowy streets, and snowy, snowy streets. There are indoor zones that have some differentiation but for the most part you are walking down streets. A lot. Snowy ones.
  2. Gear: I am not even level 20 yet so maybe this does get better but I have gone through over a dozen pair of gloves that may or may not be different. I may have missed it, but can’t zoom in on the gloves to see the detail in the work to understand how they may differentiate. Sure, the shader or color may change from dark blue #544 to dark blue #677 but the gear change just hasn’t been that noticeable. Scarves, hats, etc. are but that is a far cry from feeling like you are moving along the gear train. So far there has been little differentiation and I am starting to wonder if there is even a point. There is SO much variation in Destiny between classes and options (including shaders) that the lack thereof in The Division is very noticeable.
  3. Dark Zone: No, I haven’t played it. And before you get all “how can you review something you haven’t played” I am going to be all like “I hate it thematically so not going to play it”. I get it, they need to find a reason for PVP. I just don’t like it among the very cool and engaging story line so far. It feels like such a senseless bolt on that they could have done better.  I will dip in eventually, but the idea behind it has already left a bad taste in my mouth
  4. Real World limitations: Because it is based on today / everyday life you can’t go too far outside of that realism. Mechanics are shoot, grenade, advanced things (such as turrets) fit okay, but it is limiting on the types of things you can fight. People.  This limits mechanics and other interesting options. It has given some variety so far but it feels (fairly) far more constrained.

I want to like The Division more, and I am far from being done with it – my attention is just being drawn elsewhere currently and I feel like those deficiencies (in my mind) are holding me back from making it a focus. I haven’t done any grouping yet so perhaps that will help. I will play through the story campaign and see if any of the above changes. The good news is, with such low expectations, it will be easy to surprise me.


Spring Cleaning – Old Post Drafts #2

Continuing my Spring Cleaning project – here is my second post as I go through my drafts folder and decide to keep (and finish) old post thoughts or delete them away. The first post in this series is here.

“I Don’t Use Steam Much Anymore” (8/7/2014)

Steam is that ultra convenient platform that I have had some bad experiences with. I go swathes of time without updating the service. This particular post outline had four bullet points and nothing more. They were:

  1. It doesn’t know my birthday – this always drives me crazy about Steam when I want to watch a video game video. It has my credit card information on file, that’s great for when I buy games, but god forbid it knows my birthday and allows me to watch any video that my birthday qualifies me for without having to re-input it. A basic quality of life change (that probably shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it does. Just one of those things.)
  2. They suck to deal with – I still recall the worst purchase experience of my life when I bought a game for $19.99 on one day, and it went 90% off the next day ($1.99) and Steam refused to credit me the difference. I didn’t even want money back, just a credit, and I’ll go buy another game with it (that would have cost more than $18). They refused. No other retailer would get away with that.
  3. It’s a race to the bottom pricing event – that does not build loyalty. Steam is to gaming as Subway is to food. It’s convenient. It’s always there. They both just charge cheaper and cheaper and give it away, and not necessarily getting better at it or making a product that is good for you.
  4. F@ck me. (yes, it said that. I have no clue what that means, or what kind of day I was having in August 2014, but that was my moment of clarity – so it seems.)

Outcome: Delete due to being same old same old. Steam will be that platform I’ll never reconcile with due to the past and what I feel it does to the market, but I also know I am in an extreme minority in that viewpoint. I will still use it when I see a good deal or feel like I have to, but I will never be a big fan.

“Payment Models – Analogies” (8/8/2014)

This post has been done to death and keeps coming around. The constant “what is best” (B2P, F2P, Subscription, Early Access, etc. etc.). I tried to simplify things by using analogies but some of them weren’t that great and the clarity and end to this debate we are all seeking to find was not going to be found in here anyway. I used a concert as B2P, a street performer as F2P, and social assistance / welfare for Subscription. All decent ones but analogies are so imperfect because they aren’t the actual things you are talking about. I think by now people just have their own personal comfort zones on each and no amount of debate of analogies (good or bad) will change that.

Outcome: Delete due to dead horse kicking. As much fun as that is.

“Half Full” (4/4/2014)

Check out these awesome notes on this post, in their full entirety (including punctuation and capitalization)

COol story – half full, half empty HAS BEER

Syp, Syl

Attitude of bloggers

I feel whiny

That’s it. I literally had to look at this for a while and think “WTF was I talking about…” and after thinking through it came to the clear and obvious conclusion that bloggers like Syp and Syl are just positive all around, half full kind of people. I love their “tone” of blogging.They can make their points clearly in a non-whining or condescending manner. I like that. Sometimes when I post ranty I feel/worry that I am just coming across like a whiny baby. Maybe that is due to people just generally being harder on themselves (by people, I mean me) but I am unsure – DO I come across whiny? I don’t even have a full grasp on my own blog’s “tone”. I think that is because I write in whatever kind of mood I am in at the time.Constructive criticism, not fishing for anything but the truth!

Many bloggers have their own tone – everyone knows Syncaine’s, etc. The good news is, regardless, that I mentioned beer in a post. I need more posts with beer. Outcome: Delete. And drink a beer.

“Is it September Already” (8/30/2014)

Well, according to that draft date, no. No it isn’t Isey.

The notes for this post were another piece of inspirational magic.

August Review

Stop me if you have heard this one before. A blogger that does a full and comprehensive month end review, what an amazing idea! Maybe I should do that!

Sarcasm aside, I love TAGN’s monthly review posts but he has the chops, pedigree, and consistency to make those posts awesome and fun to read. It’s a short history trip every month about his blog but also for gaming in general with the 5/10 year look backs. I was definitely inspired by him to think about doing a post like that and especially because it was on the heels of Blaugust (which I completed) so I actually had a lot to review for a change. It never did happen, of course. Also, like the late night cram the day before exams, I clearly wasn’t willing to put the necessary work in. He can keep that all to himself, quite safely. Outcome: Delete due to way too much work to do and now irrelevant.

“Swap Free to Play” (8/31/2014)

Look, I know I had a ton of posts started in August and very few of them fleshed out. This was mostly because of the daily Blaugust event you had to always be thinking of ideas to post about. I did, at least. I really enjoyed the event and it  fired me back up to blogging – if even just as a therapeutic method of getting through a long end of summer. Every once in a while I get completely inspired to try something new. There are so many creative people out in the interwebs and Blognation doing awesome parodies and videos and songs. I have no talent like that. I was an inspiring young rapper back in my white privileged middle class upbringing in small town Canada, so I do fancy myself a lyricist. I once linked (probably all dead links now) a bunch of video game related things to the lyrics of “Don’t Believe the Hype” by my all time favourite band Public Enemy (I am not even kidding. Chuck D was a visionary.) I am almost embarrassed that I desecrated that revolutionary track lyrics that way.

Again, a lot of thought put into this Blaugust draft.

Heyyy, hooy

Hip hop hooray song

Unlike others where I can claim the 5th (can Canadians do that?) and faux confusion about what the hell was I thinking, I do remember this one clearly. It was the beginning of a rap parody of Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray”. Which you should 100% know, but just in case:

So the basis of the parody was taking the lyrics and turning into how a poorly planned MMO launch would have to “Swap Free to Play, hoooo, heyyy, hoooo” Here is a snippet of the original:

You drew a picture of my morning
But you couldn’t make my day, Hey!
I’m rockin’ and you’re yawning
But you never look my way, Hey!
I’m lickin down you darlin’
In every single way, Hey!
Your funny flow is foreign
And a green card’s on the way!

to the video game themed

You spent 100 million

But you couldn’t make me pay, Hey!

Your built another wow clone

It plays exactly the same way, Hey!

You had 200 programmers cramming

And tomorrow is payday, Hey!

Your bank account is empty

There is no other way!


Swap Free to Play, heeey hooo heeeyy hooooo

Now picture a bunch of nerds in the video above jamming to that. Outcome: Deleting to save the world from that disaster.

I feel like deleting these old drafts instead of bringing them to fruition is some sort of public service.

Blognation, you are welcome.

Destiny 2 Wishlist

With my new PC on delivery delay (went from April 25th to May 18th)  and still stuck in a trickling advancement with Destiny – I did get my Division code from Razor and installed it on my old Laptop. I really feel like that game might be best played on the PS4. 60″ TV and all. It was also hard to transition to the third person shooter aspect after being focused on Destiny for most of my gaming time. Granted, I only played for 15 minutes this morning but the backdrops were really beautiful as I went through a decimated New York.

Drifting on thoughts on what I’d like to see in Destiny 2 which is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2017. My wish list is simple for the game and it is mostly made up of things I wish Destiny 1 had. That is what sequels are for anyway, right? So here goes. With the why:

  1. Ships as social hubs: It is annoying to have to land at the tower to grab Vanguard bounties everyday. It has zero benefit except to land, run 20 steps, click 8 times, then orbit. Make ships social areas for friends but also have access to vendors either directly or via communication devices.. Shades of the old KOTOR here. The ships are awesome and fun to collect but offer nothing in terms of game play except to act as a transition phase to instances.
  2. Ships as content: With amazing space ships should come cool ship battles. Or at least some type of game to truly enjoy them. It could just be such a bigger part of the game, even if not a core or super important one. Some sort of shooting mini game as you approach a landing or something similar.
  3. Matchmaking for all levels and styles of game play: If WoW can make LFR tools for their most complex and challenging raid content then there is no excuse or reason why Bungie can’t do the same. Heck, just walk down the hall (figuratively) and ask.
  4. Vehicles: I really don’t expect this and it would be getting a bit too close to Planetside but there is an opportunity in Destiny to add in a bit more interaction on the vehicle front. The Sparrow races were a really cool feature.  There could be more opportunities to use vehicles as part of the game play
  5. Cross platform Play: Really don’t see what the point is in not having this – especially since it is the exact same game on all platforms. I get that PC doesn’t play well with Consoles (easier to shoot with a mouse) so maybe you need to restrict PVP in certain situations.  The health of the community would be far better off with more players. I also find it pretty funny that the PS4 got some exclusives – the sparrow for example – which now every single player in the game has. It does not feel exclusive one bit. Showing it off to your Xbox friends with a friendly side dose of trash talk would make exclusives have some sort of sense.

I am tapped out on the game and miss it. I can’t really advance past 315 without a ton of grind or a ton of luck. I did start leveling a Warlock but that is hard to go back to the basics when the higher end game play is so much fun. Until some DLC or D2 arrives I will have some options but I am now at the point where thinking about Destiny 2 is taking up more of my time than playing Destiny 1.

Do you have any hopes or dreams for D2?

March of the – F@*& S^$T!

This was supposed to be a post about advanced tips and tricks to help you with March of the Living, because I was supposed to have beat it about five minutes ago instead of having everyone die on what I am pretty sure was the last encounter in the entire game after banging my head against it all week. 20 days. 15 hours of “practice”. If you want to fully figure out this game on your own through multiple failures then you may not want to read the following tips. Once I sorted these out I was (am) able to get to or near the end every time. There isn’t anything spoilerish about the story but just some fundamentals that once you know make the experience far easier to play.

Dammit. Still, here are some tips:

  • Travel: The blue places are the ones I visited. In early play throughs I would avoid cities at all costs unless an absolute necessity because the chance of scavenging anything useful without a big fight was low. It turns out, especially in the first map section, you don’t have to deal with overly hard zombies. You also still get your spoils if you kill them all, so even if it triggers an event just kill the zombies and you get your lewts. Doing this I was able to amass far more food and ammo than I needed for the end part. I would now suggest to hit ALL the cities on the first map, and on the second map take a route that has as many cities in your path as reasonably doable, and the third map avoid them. The third map has really, really hard zombies on it.
  • Fighting: It’s a bit boring but standard Rotters are a waste of ammo. Go up, take one swing, walk away 2 steps (that resets their swing timer), go back, take one swing, rinse/repeat. You can take on full packs of Rotters this way, 5 or 6 easily at a time. I still always used ammo on Grabbers and prioritize Screamers over all others.

  • Here you see that it is actually easier to just do it with one character. Put one off to the side to safety and get them all gathered up for an easy take down. Also – notice the rifle, shotgun, pistol ammo and food I have at this point.
  • Keep your group small. I found Barry at the end of the first map. The larger the group the harder it is to feed them all. It was just Barry and I all throughout Map 2, and by the time I found 2 more people (and my kid) near end of Map 3 I was almost done the game. Ton of ammo, ton of food. You can have as many as six people (and that would have been helpful at the end) but I literally didn’t find that many on this play through.
  • Don’t be a hero unless you have tons of supplies and feel good about it. The safest route had me allowing all sorts of people to die on my way to save my own son. Selfishness pays off in this game.
  • I don’t think this counts as a spoiler, and I was quite surprised that it ended the game, but you can’t let your son die. It’s instant game over. Not still survive and mourn, not even a cutscene. Just game over. I didn’t really like that part. The kid moves slow and can’t attack worth a damn. The screamers can outrun him so if you don’t drop them fast enough its bad news.
  • Never, ever flee unless you are going to die for sure. You lose items, ammo, food, people…. it’s not worth it.

Thematically I don’t fully agree with the “your kid is missing and you must save them, so take your sweet ass time and explore everything along the way to get the experience” <ahem> Fallout 4 <ahem> but that really is the only way to beat this game. All of my initial play throughs were rush through to get to him but I never had enough food or ammo to survive.  Figuring out the above tips made the game a much better experience overall, so put them to good use.

Dead End with Destiny

Well, the love affair with Destiny has come to a standstill along with my character progression. That is a 100% correlation.

My Titan is “stuck” at 312 light level. This stuck mode is my conundrum because I can’t do the next level of challenges until I hit 320 light level, and I don’t believe I can get there unless I play the game the way I don’t want to.

The ways (that I can sort out, there isn’t really much clarity on it in game) that I can advance my character further is as follows:

  1. Weekly Nightfall Strike – 320 light, no matchmaking
  2. Challenge of Elders – 320 light, no matchmaking
  3. Kings Fall Raid – 300 light, no matchmaking
  4. The Iron Banner – PVP
  5. The Court of Oyrx – PVE world event
  6. Lord Shaxx Bounties – PVP

Of that group I can only/want to do Court of Oryx. I did grind out a bunch of them on the weekend but wasn’t fortunate enough to get the 320 – 335 gear as advertised. I don’t enjoy (and I am terrible at) PVP so far, and with my sketchy schedule and lack of “friends” at PS4 non matchmaking events are hard for me to do.

This is all me, not Destiny, so I am not really complaining. This is where the WoW treatment would be awesome for a player like me (LFR anyone?) . My Hunter is already light level 300 and my Warlock is only level 7 so I could still play by redoing the content I have been already.  With Destiny 2 a year away there needs to be a compelling reason for me to keep doing existing. Moving my character forward was fun enough in the existing content but when that tap dries, what else is there?

Maybe I am missing something but I would love to hear the experience of better and other Destiny players who have passed where I am stuck at to see if there is something else I could be doing to advance.

My new laptop arrives this week with The Division as a bundle, so Destiny may be losing a big fan of the game and someone playing many hours a week. I wonder if other people are in the same boat.

The realization of my full on casualness is in full acceptance. I feel shame.

March of the Living

I consider myself well equipped to handle a zombie apocalypse – both mentally and physically. I have spent years preparing myself for the inevitability by reading great history books such as World War Z, playing long hours of zombie related shooters (Left 4 Dead one AND two!), keep to a good fitness routine, and have experimented with other simulators such as Resident Evil (games and movies),  and more realistic ones such as Project Zomboid. I am fully prepared for this eventuality. So when Psycochild recommended I pick up a copy of a new game on Steam, March of the Living, I was compelled. I had a free afternoon and figured this little title would consume about an hour of my time and just be another notch in my belt to prove my worthiness to face the impending apocalypse. Would hardly be worth my time, but hey, it’s not like pro Zombie killers like me would be the only ones playing the game.

10 days.

That’s all I can survive. That is actually my best. On average I think I am lasting 5 or 6 days.

I can’t stop playing.

This is Greg. Pretty handy to have all of those gun skills for an apocalypse, but it hardly has done me well.

March of the living gives an instant classic feeling. It feels familiar and comfortable as a side scrolling resource game with fun (yet simple) combat and is far more complex under the hood. The basic of the game is that you need to traverse a map to complete objectives. The main one is set when you start (find your girl and child) and new ones pop up as you go. Here is the map:

Pretty simple to follow, and as you can see in the top right there are three screens of this spider web. The fun part is it is randomly generated (so there is no learning the best route). Each of those lines is a true representative of distance – so the longer the line, the longer you will walk in that area. Players walk at (napkin math) of about 6km per hour, which is relatively fair according to Google. When you pick a new area you walk towards it and there are events that can happen mid travel (zombie fights, random encounters) but you are always guaranteed to have some sort of special event by the time you get to the end. I don’t want to use any spoilers but they are fitting of the setting and they do not always repeat. A choice one way one time may not have the same result the next. This is fitting of keeping it interesting and the random elements make sure you just can’t play out every scenario and know the best choices.

I will use one example of a text choice and how the environment does change. I won’t show the outcome so it’s not really a spoiler. When walking along…

The choices I often make (that sometimes really, really hurts) is because I am just so curious on what could happen. I play way too nice and am not nearly paranoid enough. The Traits are if you have the proper partner (you can meet people to travel with you) and I have had a few pop up for me advantageously.

After my choice (and outcome) the background changed to be appropriate for the encounter.

The heart of the game is resource management. If you get too hungry, you get fatigued faster, have temporary health loss and have combat penalties. If you get too fatigued, you get in game penalties and lose health faster. If you run out of health you die. Sleep is the fun one – because you rarely find safe places to sleep (unless you are in a city) and that becomes a mini game of watching the growl meter and deciding when to wake up (which does not happen instantly). It’s unsettling and uncomfortable and just one more minute of sleep… I found that you can push that meter pretty far but at the ‘S’ it is ALWAYS safe. So far.

My experience so far has lead me to these tips:

  • Health is the hardest thing to replenish. Meds are few and far between. I try to avoid getting hit at all costs
  • I rarely have run out of ammo on my play throughs (it has happened, but hasn’t been the main issue for me dying) so until you are dying consistently from lack of ammo I’d focus on keeping health high.
  • If you are low on health you cannot let hunger get to red – the temporary HP decrease will kill you
  • Food is scarce. Really scarce. I run out of food before all else for the most part. I have prioritized it.
  • I have lasted longer alone. With food being so scarce, the more bodies you have with you the more you have to feed. It makes fights way safer (and sleeping in dangerous areas as well because you can leave a lookout) but it really drains the resources.
  • On long journeys plan to be close to cities – they are very dangerous places but the best place to find supplies. So if you don’t get fortunate to find things you need on your normal travels, go to the city and take the necessary risks
  • If you are very hungry or very tired but near the end of a travel encounter, get there first. Sometimes the encounter is a safe place to rest, or a barter stand. Frustrating burning through my hunger meter to get sleep only to take 10 more steps and be in a safe town.

At the end (death) there is a short synopsis of your journey. My only negative on the game so far is that this scrolls very, very slow and you can’t scroll back and forth. I’d fix that with a mousewheel control.

I recommend this as a buy if you love zombies and aren’t turned off by the indie nature and graphics. It really is a very fun game. It is $15 right now so you have to judge if you think that is worth it, but I appreciate well designed efforts like this and it has proved a true challenge with excellent replay-ability. It is a challenge so don’t expect a cake walk. It is the zombie apocalypse, after all.

Spring Cleaning: Old Post Drafts (Part 1)

All bloggers have a bunch of post drafts started that either get revisited and completed or sit in post purgatory, waiting to be further inspired or expanded. I hate letting those linger. I have a slew of them in my folder and for funzies decided to go through them and either finish them off or delete them. I have done a pretty solid job of not letting them hang around too much with the oldest one only backdated to 2014. For each I’ll list the title and the gist of the post depending on what I had in the body, and what I plan to do with it. The result will be a nice and tidy back end for I HAS PC. (Mind out of the gutter please)

“Stats Fun” (2/26/2014)

This entire post was in reference to one I read over at Kill Ten Rats that made my day – which in turn linked to an XCKD comic about germs. The basis was that in a world of seven billion people “one in a million” events happen seven thousand times a day. I found that very cool, and made a post saying that it was cool. That post had absolutely nothing to add to the conversation in any way, shape, or form and I didn’t complete it or continue it for that reason. That is why I am giving it the Outcome: delete here too. I didn’t even save the link on the draft, which is a shame, because I still remember how much I loved that post.

Here is a link to that comic though, Google found that easy. I sent it to a woman in my office who is a germophobe and a uses hand disinfectant often. She hates me now.

“Patent Trolls” (3/20/2014)

The entire body of the post was just a link to an article I read on the Economist about patent trolls that I must have felt strongly about one way or another, but I didn’t go beyond the link. I often email myself things as a reminder to think about them or revisit them and here is that same sort of style. I clearly wanted to do something with it, but didn’t, so now I am  Outcome:deleting it as a post that never was (or will be)

“WildStar – Over The Shoulder Shooter with RPG Elements?” (3/31/2014)

First off (to get it out of the way) yes, I know, it is called a 3rd person shooter. Someone corrected me on that on another blog recently – I do not know why I have a hard time remember that. The term always escapes me and I default to the less eloquent (yet truthful) “over the shoulder…” tag instead. I am working on it. This post started as a response to the first WildStar video I saw, and was yet again a look at gaming terminology and how it is inadequate. MMO, quite literally, is any game that is online with other people. There is no succinct or precise number accepted by the industry. “Massively” is not defined. In this post I explored that due to the action style of the videos I was watching for WildStar whether or not we could consider it more like Mass Effect than WoW as it definitely played more like it. I gave suggestions on some other, equally terrible acronyms such as MMO for marketers to use (for free!) such as:

  • LBOG (Lobby Based Online Game) – this would suit Diablo, Destiny, etc. quite well (and more accurate than MMO)
  • FPSRPG (First Person Shooter Role Playing Game – genre-bending! Great buzzwords for a marketing department)
  • OSORPG – I have NO CLUE what I meant by this one. Only Sometimes Online RPG? Hrmpf. Stumped here.

While the Outcome:delete here is obvious due to it being a bad post all around and the WildStar train has left the station, I do feel somewhat good that games like Destiny and The Division are showing that “MMOs” don’t need traditionally interconnected zones to be considered a world. I have argued for a while now that World of Warcraft could be better suited as a lobby based game and that I think it will end up there in a couple expansion cycles, once it is available on consoles. I feel more connected in the Destiny world than I have in a long time on Azeroth. I also, not oracle-like in that article said I would go play WildStar when it went F2P. It didn’t take a genius to call that at that time, trying to launch a hardcore sub game in a world of quality free-to-plays, even that early in its life cycle.

“MMO Connections” (3/31/2014)

I am a nostalgic fool to a fault. I get sad when I visit old places that have gaming meaning to me (in game) and even when I visit my old message boards from the EQ test days I get a lump in my throat. It’s odd, and probably unhealthy.  I can’t even really put my finger on it. My old WoW guild boards are gone, but they restarted them (only to see the guild look like it stopped raiding and growing, in “comfort mode” and they have new boards that I sometimes visit just to see who is there and what is going on. I felt so connected to so many people from my raiding days. I would literally spend 30-40+ hours a week with them – so yes, I miss them. I do have to let that all go sometime though. One a larger note, this is why I will probably never feel satisfied with any MMO again because I can’t dedicate that time ever again – and it is that kind of commitment that really makes a game special. I sorted out quite a while ago that it was me, not them that was the problem. (Them being MMOs). Anyway – back to the point, of which Nostalgia is strong.

This site, The Burial Grounds, was hosted and organized by an old guildmate of mine from DAOC. It was a great premise – when you were done your adventures with your online characters there were monuments for them. There are unique designs, banners, tombstones, everything, including where they lay (and shooting star backgrounds!). It also worked as a way to connect old gaming friends together as many people remember the character name more than the human being name (not judging). It was multi-game and I think a great, fun service. He stopped posting there in 2008 but I always thought it should be brought back to life as a great way for people to find old friends. Here is an example.

Due to my strong feelings about this, I am going to Outcome: Save and Finish this post at a later date. Maybe instead of waiting for someone else to retake up the mantle, I will!

“What Gets Measured Gets Done” (5/1/2014)

This was a post from WildStar beta where they rank your performance based off of stats. I lamented on a  I was 3rd in DPS (out of three), 1st in staying alive, and 2nd in healing. I received a bronze reward for this. It bothered me because I knew how hard healing was in Stonetalon Lair (at the time, in beta, anyway – when it was all hardcore) so on my action slots I took a heal over time ability to help take the pressure off of the healer on my rotation. This did make my DPS suffer a bit but I felt I should have been better rewarded by staying alive the best and also propping up the healer. Instead, the tunnel vision DPS guys get the glory. And the girls, apparently. I don’t even know if that mechanic is even measured in WildStar anymore and it isn’t like anyone is playing, right? I’m so sadface about WildStar – I really wanted to get through the main story line but it forces me to feel like I need to take Ritalin just to play longer than an hour. It is not working for me.The concept of measuring is still valid in MMOs in general, and has been debated to death and back to life again (post zombification?) and I have nothing new or exciting to add to that discussion in that post. Outcome: Delete due to relevance

There will be a few parts to this as an ongoing “feature” until I clean it all out. It is fun to look back before moving forward.

Spam Posts as a Measure of Popularity

All of my spam posts caught in my Askimet filter are about two games right now, split pretty much right down the middle.

Blade and Soul and Runescape.

Most of them are  about selling gold in those two games.

What does this mean? Is there really that big of a market for gold in either that it’s worth spamming about? Or is my blog specifically targeted to those two games because of things I post? (nothing about either, ever, that I recall)

Perhaps they are telling me that is where I need to be, or they are measuring some quality of those titles against my writing.

Outlook is bleak.

At least the Russians stopped harassing me.


WoW Prognosticating

I don’t have a bear / cat / owl in the race anymore, but watching WoW from afar I see some interesting changes coming down the pipeline.

I am taking a pretty wild shot in the dark to think about the future of the game but it just came to me like a shining beacon of light, a message from the After-WoW-life. I spent many, many years with multiple accounts in WoW (and multiple sub fees – this is prior to the WoW Token!) but I am long gone, maybe unreachable now. The game is also in a clear decline in terms of numbers (as everyone knows). Also, the classes and game mechanics are being dumbed down simplified and even main weapons are being whittled down to a single type points to some major changes on the horizon. The timeline for when I expect the below to happen is the expansion after the next. (If ever.). Feel the conviction!

  1. WoW will go to consoles. I know this isn’t a shocker, but those PS4 and XO controllers have more buttons than it looks like you will need to play with. The game works better as a lobby style game anyway so this is a very positive move. Everything is already garrisoned out (or class halls, upcoming expansion) while you wait to be teleported to your next instance
  2. Classes will change to “equipped weapons”, FFXIV style. WoW will finally be alt friendly and you can level up every class just by the weapon you wield. This level of alt friendliness is great in casual land. The weapons and weapon upgrades become the new grind. It will be hard to build an entire expansion around a single weapon for your character next expansion and then abandon it in future expansions.
  3. Expansions will come faster in smaller bites. Designing console dungeons and quest areas will allow a smaller team to publish content faster, at smaller costs (that will add up to more in the long run). This will finally allow people to vote with their wallets on what kind of content they want (instead of what kind of expansion they want) and then that content will now be offered more. This supports high level raids and dungeons, and saves development time from planned obsolescence content (leveling) with repeatable, high value content.

While that is a list that changes the fundamental nature of WoW at it’s core you don’t have to look far to see where the inspiration is for such a change in another Activision product. Destiny.

I have been playing a LOT of Destiny lately. It is a great game that is easily played in 30 minute chunks and has so many paths of  advancement. WoW has been working towards this in many ways, and the numbers on Destiny are shattering really. At one point almost a year ago there were 20 million players shooting it up. Then, when the Taken King launched it set records for concurrent players surpassing the first Destiny launch   If you add all of that up in a 12-14 month release schedule they probably did north of a billion dollars on the title. I wonder how that compares to overall WoW revenues today. Plus, Destiny has introduced it’s own micro-transaction system as well.

I know many of you are probably sceptical that Blizzard will change how WoW works, and part of me even feels like a more action oriented WoW could go to consoles as a WoW 2 or some such. One would suspect Activision is paying attention to what revenues are being driven by other camps they publish for and seeing the response to titles such as Destiny (and competitors, such as the Division, $330 Million in sales first 5 days..) it would make sense to leverage more Blizzard IP on consoles. It’s a big market, and Overwatch will be a good test to see if World of Warcraft will end up being the next MMO title on consoles. The fact that FFXIV can do it cross platform, same world, could be the attraction of the new generation of WoW players the game needs to continue to be a massive revenue generator.

I don’t suspect that they will let WoW go the route of EQ with progression servers. Making the game console friendly at some point would introduce new players to the game and could also bring back people like me. I am finding the Destiny experience perfect in terms of what I can give and what I want to get from a streamlined “MMO” experience. Perhaps this prognostication is as much as me projecting what I want – but I don’t believe Blizzard will let WoW go away quietly.

Did Apple Play that Wrong?

First off, to be clear (and it will be anyway) I am not an Apple fan-boy. I do have some of their products but for the most part I prefer the Android operating system for my phone. I like having the freedom of choice on what goes on there and what I can interact with. I do believe Apple makes beautiful products that are easy to use. So I’m not an Apple hater either.  I don’t have super strong opinions either way about the company. The only post I have tagged Apple on here is about the mobile game Flight Control (from 2010). And now this one.

As very-well reported everywhere in the world Apple denied doing something they were ordered to do by a court. I am not going to get into overarching privacy issues and discussions here on my typical 500-1000 word post. The gist, that everyone gets, is that the government wanted terrorism information and wanted (well, compelled – through the courts) Apple to build in an OS change so they could access it. Apple fought back on privacy grounds saying that that vulnerability would then be open for abuse by undesirable persons to then use it on unsuspecting citizens  and steal all of their digital secrets.

Ignoring the part of the argument that in order for that to happen someone from Apple would have to leak it in the first place after making it – which is a contrary argument already, because if you don’t trust your own people then there are probably already ways out there to hack it already. It turns out there is.

While Apple took the high road stance to show they wouldn’t risk their customer’s privacy all they really did was prove publically that it isn’t safe already. The methods to get into their devices is already out there. So in essence we now know that their devices are not secure, and they can’t provide the privacy and security they sought to claim in the first place. This is where I think they may have played it wrong.

If they would have built a one time door and destroyed it after and said “Our devices are so secure that the only way to hack into it is if we do it.” and “We did it as per the judges order, but then destroyed it afterwards”  then everyone would “know” how secure their devices were.  Instead, they took a stance (that was largely unpopular with general ‘Murica, googling poll results) and the government found their own way. Now the world is aware that you can already hack Apple devices. For those in the tech know-how that probably isn’t much of a surprise but for the average user who thinks their phone is a fortress it probably is.

Of course, if they had agreed to build-in the back door to protect the fantasy that their device was impenetrable then they would be called sellouts to the government, which may have been a worse result. Apple doesn’t really have that kind of hacker image already though, right? Aren’t the stereotypical apple users hipsters, artists, and non-techies?

Either way, I’m just really surprised there isn’t more public outcry for how un-secure the Apple device is – real or imagined.

Revisiting Destiny

I had a huge itch to play a shooter this weekend. I miss the genre. I remember playing DOOM death matches over baud modems in my university dorm in the 90’s. I mostly fell out of the genre because of the direction it took. I loved Rainbow Six and the types of shooters that smarts and tactics could prevail over straight twitch. This is why I never really played any of the Call of Duty games (well, the single player campaigns I did, but stayed away from online) and the ultimate online shooter for me was Battlefield 2142 which was a nice mix of squad play and tactics over pure twitch. I still HATED bunny hopping in that game too, but that was about the worst you had to worry about.

Fast forward to today and I am currently FPS game-less. I didn’t finish Fallout 4 but that is far more RPG than FPS. I haven’t played the Battlefield series since 2142 (almost played the followup, until I discovered they removed the ability to go prone. Since when can human beings not lie down to shoot a gun?) Project Reality, which is still my favourite FPS of all time takes a lot of time to get in and out of – and I need to be able to get in and out quickly. I was very close to buying the Division, until I found out that my cries to my IT department for more graphics and computing power in a small form did not go unheard – and this is coming to me end of April (which has a free copy of the Division). I started looking and reading on what could satisfy my itch, and I found I already DID have a title, just one I haven’t played in a long time.


Destiny is the game that has the dumbest story ever (ok, maybe a bit harsh. Dumbest story ever written by a AAA company. Hell, a basic understandable story, even full of tropes and tired and rehashed elements would have been better.) I summed it up on this post pretty simple, based off of the OUT of game Grimoire cards. I mean, who wants to read or experience lore IN game?

First off, there are high level themes of light and darkness.

It’s odd that the enemy that threw the universe into a tizzy isn’t something tangible or something anyone can agree on. I’d understand an army (or whatnot) but just a premise, a theory – how does that “attack”? None of this is really clear. Does it even exist or it is an evil inside each of us? Something hit us. Not an army, not a force to be reckoned with. Philosophy hit us and it hurt! How do we have a collapse and not know our enemy? At least we have a clear hero! The Traveler. Our lord and savior.

The Traveler, graphically, is a giant ball of light hovering above the last city on Earth.  It doesn’t communicate through itself per se, but through The Speaker.

Here the speaker is described as a high priest. So we have a savior that doesn’t directly communicate to us who sacrificed itself to stop an attack by a theory or premise on all that we hold dear. The Traveler’s gift to stop the attack? Zombies! (aka – Guardians)

That’s right, the good guys are raising the dead to kill the uh, bad guys. Who don’t raise the dead. But you aren’t just any Zombie, you are one who was at a Russian spaceport! For some reason. Maybe shopping.

Oh, the “Ghost” – I forgot to explain that part. The “Ghost” brought you back from the dead and you need a “Ghost” to be your guide. A mechanical creature that (unlike you) cannot be replaced if it is killed.

So the Guardians are completely replaceable but the machines that Jiminy Cricket us are invaluable. I’m confused a bit. Who are the good guys again? The “light” zombies (Warlocks, Hunters, Titans) or the aliens that represent “darkness” (Knights, Wizards, Captains, Legionnaires). Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe the “Darkness” is actually the good guy – trying to wipe the space zombies from the universe. That makes far more sense than what we have been given so far.

OK, so maybe I was a little harsh, but c’mon, drop $10,000 on writers and you get better than that. I blame drugs.

The good part is, outside of a terrible, embarrassingly deficient story, you have a really nice shooter all packaged up. It’s responsive, has great backdrops, a good PVE questing system, a group finder / CO-OP strike mission system, cool weapons and armor, and great customization – both in terms of skill trees and appearance. There is an awesome game there despite the story.

There has also been three expansions since I played last. The main reason why I quit last time was because I upgraded to a PS4 and of course my XBOX 360 characters couldn’t come with me, so starting fresh on a new system (after all the grinding and leveling I had already done) was enough of a deterrent to just give up on the game. But now I had fresh interest and the PVE component of it fit for me. So I started again.

The story is still, incredibly terrible. I think I have made that pretty clear. I’m just disappointed because of the huge opportunity it had (has?).

The game play is very good. My titan is level 16 with many levels to go (24) and new story lines and things to do from my last time in the game. I’m hoping when I get further along maybe they tied up some of the story elements but I am still guessing no, since every time I meet a new enemy or area, a prompt on the screen tells me to go to Bungie.Net to learn about it. I can still play this game despite this fault. For now.

Maybe the Division will free me from this Destiny.

(Un)happy Endings

I finished Pillars of Eternity and had an enjoyable time. My Steam time played shows ridiculous hours because I left the game on days at a time as I popped in and out. The game lent itself well to short play sessions (well, planned that way at least) that would stretch into “I can do one more room” (or area. or quest. or bounty). I like games that compel me to push on when I should stop playing. There is a LOT of lore in the world and they should be commended for that effort. I loved picking up books on bookshelves to read about some obscure captain of the guard, or a historical family in the area. Both of which I would never encounter or interact with, but which helped make the world feel more like a world.

I finished the game quite by accident. It probably should have been more obvious to me but I did want to finish all the companion quests and side ones I had before finishing the game. Once I realized I was most likely in the final stretches of the story  I also assumed that even if I finished the main quest line that I would be afforded the opportunity to complete my outstanding missions.

I was not.

This lead me to a small dissatisfaction with the way the game ended, in all of it’s finality. One of my favourite companion characters was a Dwarven Ranger named Sagani. Her quest is to find the reincarnated elder of her village and has been searching for him for five years. After I completed the game by interacting with the environment, the game went straight into “end” mode and gave a nice narration of what happened to all of the companions afterwards. Sagani, my best friend in the game didn’t get her mission completed and her fate was sealed.

[spoiler here – game is old, so not too worried, but if you plan on playing it and hate spoilers don’t read!]

[final warning!]

She searched for another 20 years before finding the reincarnation and when she returned home her husband was dead, some of her kids, and the village as she left it was not recognizable. I felt like a jerk for not completing her quest. How would it have changed her life? Truth be told, I WOULD have, so now my jerkiness made me feel like the game ripped me off from giving me the opportunity to finish all that I wanted before ‘ending’ the game. Now I had to go to a previous save point, ensure I finished all of the side quests I wanted to before redoing the content I already did (and don’t want to do) to see how that changes the fortunes of Sagani. Probably another three or four hours of playtime.

I am not sure how related this is but I am not really interested in the two expansions that are now out. Is it because no matter what happens there, their stories and fates are already sealed? The expansion takes place before the ending, so do I have to reload yet another pre-ending saved game to experience that content? I think that since the game is “done” in my experience it is discouraging me from buying the expansions. I am still trying to sort through that in my head.

Good on Obsidian for making me care so much about a character to actually go through the steps of replaying parts to ensure they end up okay. Bad on them for not having a way to end the game on my own terms, in my Keep, when I felt like I had accomplished all I needed to in their wonderfully crafted world.

Everquest Not Next

There was little surprise with the announcement of the cancellation of Everquest Next. Some hopes and dreams were minorly dashed as a game that never really was a game was finally ended the way it began. As an announcement. EQ:N was never really there so the announcement that they officially ended their prior announcement that they were building some successor had all the shock of telling a 25 year old that Santa wasn’t real. Well, duh, dad, I’ve known that since I was seven. Thanks for keeping the illusion alive for a while there though.

The real question is now, is what is really next? Next for EQ, and next for MMOs? There is no future so bright shade wearing on the horizon.

Daybreak and EQ are fortunate to have the huge success of their TLPs and continued ways to get a subscription fee. Really, I bet they are the third highest subscription gaining MMO out right now if you count it that way (after WoW and Eve, is anyone even collecting subs anymore?). They can (and should) ride that train to the next sell point. Remember Columbus Nova is a private equity investor and they normally run on 5 or 10 year investments. Get an asset, ramp it up, sell it to the next, bigger PE firm. Columbus wants a high return (many PE firms think it is a failure to not get 20x, or at least, that is a waste of their capital) so it probably makes sense that they would cancel something that would take a huge investment with little clear chance of success. I’ll be back to Phinigal soon as I finish Pillars of Eternity (or unless X-COM 2 has DLC out by then). I can only give one game at a time my attention and EQ TLP is currently sitting in second place.

For MMOs in general this decline is good for them. It’s good that people have stopped trying to out budget and out muscle WoW. It’s good that developers are realizing that you can’t build an excellent graphically represented top ten MMO feature list and jam it into a soulless world and call it an MMO and reap profits. In the mindset of what spurs innovation and better business/ thinking:

  • “Business as Usual”  – until
  • “Crisis” – which leads to a necessary
  • “New way of thinking” – which, once realized leads to a
  • “New Reality” – which once executed, leads to
  • “Business as Usual”

Good businesses skip crisis and self create a new way of thinking, but that doesn’t happen often in most industries and definitely not gaming. MMOs already hit “crisis” with the huge failures of TESO, Wild*, and major MMO closures such as Warhammer Online. The “new way of thinking” is occurring with the Kickstarted and crowdfunded niche titles. We just haven’t seen the new reality yet.

But we will, and hopefully that creates games that aren’t just bullet pointed feature sets, but worlds to explore. The focus you see in these new kickstarted titles does give some hope. EQ:N also gave some hope.

The only hope I have now, is patience for a new reality.

[link to TAGN for all sorts of good coverage about it.]

Pillars of Looternity

Pillars of Eternity by Obsidian was a Kickstarter darling impulse buy while making the rounds of some of my favourite blogs (and reading praise for the game). I bought it, loaded it up, tried it, and abandoned it. I had mostly forgotten about it until this weekend. Now that I have completed X-COM 2 I decided to wait before an expansion to dig back into it in Ironman (Ironperson?) mode. I don’t want to burn out on its glory.

POE was loaded and in my active games library. I thought back to why I didn’t enjoy it, and I was having a hard time finding a class I liked. Nothing more frustrating than spending an hour or two in a game just to find out you don’t like your class, and have to re-roll in a static game story environment. After doing that four times I dropped the game completely. I decided to try again. Each time I tried the first time around I would go for interesting sounding classes, only to find that I had no tank style class to protect me quickly in the game. So, I tried rolling a Paladin this time to cover that big hole.

And it worked.

I put in some major hours in the game on the weekend and it has been fun. They spent a lot of energy and time on lore (and it shows) and i find myself reading a lot of the books and scrolls I find. The party I have put together so far is a nice cross section of style, skills and attitudes and I find myself very much completing every task, quest, and major story plot. I am in completionist mode – when I uncover an area I carefully remove fog of war on the area entirely, and go “door to door” to NPCs to see if anyone needs my help (I am a Paladin, after all – one of the good guys!)

My gripes are small with this game:

  • The polish feels a bit off (does feel like a Kickstarted title instead of the type of look and feel you would get from a professional studio. That is more a personal opinion than fact.)
  • I dislike the movement during combat and find non-tank melee particularly difficult to keep out of danger.
  • There is this pause between slow mode and looting at the end of a fight that feels like it lasts 10 seconds before I can loot. With the amount of fighting in the game, it is starting to drive me nuts. It should turn off faster and allow faster loot! It is consistent that this happens after every fight. Admittedly it is pretty minor but still, it is starting to get on my nerves a bit. One of those little annoyances that repetition makes larger
  • The loot system. After an epic dungeon crawl I sold (what felt like) no less than 300 swords, shields, random weapons and armor. 300! My little party of four has amazing large pockets. Or head balancing skills. Or muscles. Or both.

Everyone likes loot and in a game that requires money to advance well (if you like having a nice home) it does a poor job. Make everything worth way more, but give limited slots to carry it around. Make people pick and choose what to take. Add packmules or other methods to increase this size in a reasonable manner. Currently it seems there is no limit to what you can carry. This hurts immersion.

Once again I find myself starting games many have already long forgotten. I never did promise to be on the cutting edge of game releases!